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Of women porters and shouting matches

Journey by trains in India has a phenomenal ability to throw up surprises

I am 87 and widely travelled. Now in the past decade, my wife and I have been thinking of our earlier journeys and compare the conditions then and now.

In 1952, for instance, while travelling from Madras to Kandla as a student, I had to get down at Virangam, near Ahmedabad, to take a connecting train. When the train stopped at the station at night, two or three women porters (have you seen them in any other station?) barged into the coach and picked up my luggage and ran out, yelling in Gujarati. I panicked. My Gujarati co-passengers told me calmly that the porters would come back and take me to my luggage and seat. Within 10 minutes, it happened.

Two years later, my classmate and I were travelling from Pilani to Delhi, carrying some 15 steel trunks belonging to us and our friends, each weighing not less than 30 kg and packed with books and other goods. We stacked the trunks one upon the other up to the roof of the coach. But then the ticket examiner, a Punjabi, told us to shift the trunks to the brake van. When I shouted “Muttal” in Tamil, he shouted back in equally chaste Tamil. “I am not a muttal. I follow the rules. I had worked and stayed in Tamil Nadu for 17 years,” he said. I ran away leaving my friend to deal with this. Soon, I returned to apologise for my rude remark, and we became good friends.

In 1963, I went to the Tatanagar station to buy tickets to travel to Madras and beyond the next month. I went to the station late in the evening and stayed there the whole night. I was second in the queue in the evening. No one joined the line till the morning when I bought the ticket. Strange! Only then I realised that the date and day were considered inauspicious for travel towards south. Had I known this earlier, I would have gone to the counter only in the morning.

hemram1229@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 11:42:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/of-women-porters-and-shouting-matches/article30890286.ece

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